Missionaries in Central Africa, long hampered by transport difficulties will soon, literally, be floating on air.
Missionaries in Central Africa, long hampered by transport difficulties will soon, literally, be floating on air. They'll take delivery of a prototype hovercraft, built by a group of London schoolboys and designed by British engineers. The project took three years to complete, and all the work was done on a voluntary basis.
The hovercraft was handed over to the Missionary Aviation Fellowship in London on 13 July, and its ultimate destination is Lake Chad, where African missionaries and a lone doctor struggle to serve 250,000 lake-dwellers.
The Fellowship has been operating 25 years, providing light aircraft to help open up new areas. However, Lake Chad -- with its stretches of disease-ridden, shallow water -- has proved too much for aircraft, motor launches and four-wheeled drive vehicles. The doctor needed a reasonably cheap vehicle to cross the lake -- even over shallows and sandbanks. A hovercraft seemed the obvious answer...but those available commercially were the wrong size and too expensive.
Two engineers -- Tim Langley and Tony Burgess -- designed the prototype and supervised the construction work, which was carried out at the workshops of Sir George Monoux School, in East London. The school has spacious new facilities and school authorities backed the project, recognising the education and community service value of student participation. Other technicians gave their time and talent to the project, in which the Fellowship invested 'GBP' 2,000 sterling($5,000 US). However, subsequent models, produced commercially, would cost more.
One of the project leaders was Mike Ive, head of the school's technical department. He explains in this film the aims of the project. A transcript of his remarks follows:
SYNOPSIS: This is a hovercraft with a mission. To explain -- project supervisor, Mike Ave.
The project began three years ago, when a Missionary Aviation Fellowship engineer returned to London from Central Africa. He brought first hand reports of the difficulties on Lake Chad, where conventional transport -- light aircraft, motor launch and four-wheel drives vehicles -- is useless. The boys at Sir George Monoux School volunteered their labour, and technicians, their talent and time.
The Fellowship spent 'GBP' 2000 on materials to produce to prototype, which it's hoped will be the basis for an expanding international missionary service. In addition, the Royal Navy has expressed interest. They plan to build a second prototype for inshore rescue work. That will cost more.